One Big Difference between Internal and External Customers

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    Internal 'customers' are said to be the people in your company or perhaps a  partner that you provide your services too in order to deliver your company's  products or services.  External customers are said to be those people that  actually buy your company's products or services.  These are certainly cute and  clever definitions. 


    But let's clear the fog - there is only one  "customer" - the people that actually buy products and services from your  company and which your company derives revenues!


    When I hear "Run IT like  a Business" I can't help but cringe.  It has way too much room for  interpretation, and given the creative minds that are in IT, just about every  interpretation has been tried.  We really do not want to run IT like a business,  rather 'run IT with business discipline' is probably a more appropriate  phrasing.


    Why don't we want to run IT like a business?  There are many  reasons - the first being does your business really want/need IT to be run like  a business?  After all, business is run for profit with targeted margins and  there are marketing activities to drive revenue.  Those alone are big enough  reasons your company probably doesn't really want to run IT like a business, but  does want it run with responsible business discipline and practices.


    But  even more dangerously, I've seen many company's IT organizations talking about  their 'customer', meaning internal customers.  This way of thinking and worse,  operating, causes many undue problems and unproductive activities.  Situations  stemming from statements such as 'the customer is always right' is a common one  in addition to very wasteful pampering.


    Anyone that you work with in the  overall delivery (e.g. design, development, manufacturing, distribution,  marketing, sale, etc.) of a product or service that the company sells, is a  co-worker.  Whether they be an actual employee, contractor, or partner.  And as  such the mission and focus should be on the customer that buys the products or  services.  Co-workers should treat each other with professional respect,  courtesy, and do so in a pleasant and productive manner.


    Alignment  happens at the customer


    By each organization within the company  focused on the real customer and actually working together toward that end and  not spending cycles trying to 'satisfy' each other through fictitious role  playing, every part of the organization will bring its best to the process and  all parts of the company will naturally begin to align. 


    This 'our  customer' view is as much, if not more, an ideology change as an operational  change, and doing it will yield many productive benefits.